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Stories From the Heart

Stories From the Heart
June Pepper

In Writers’ Workshop, the children have been busy putting their thoughts to paper. They began their writing journey this year by exploring a “heart map” as a way to express what they hold dear in their hearts. Their final drawings and labels on heart-shaped paper belies the thought process and self-reflection in which the children engaged in order to reveal the people, places, experiences, and things that hold meaning for them. This was the children’s first foray into personal narrative writing, and their heart maps now serve as their visual reminder that they have much to write about from their hearts.

KB’s Heart Map.

The children have also been starting each week by being their own reporters as they write about their weekend experiences in their individual editions of Weekend News. These chronicles, which the children know as “big ideas,” help the children to think of broad topics and to organize them to provide their readers with a glimpse into their lives away from school.

ZA’s Weekend News begins on a Friday outing to a store.

But big ideas are made up of many little ideas. So last week, we began exploring the idea of small moments writing. Small-moments writing is a technique that encourages the children to zoom in on a specific experience from their lives – a small moment – and describe it in vivid detail. It encourages the use of descriptive language to paint a picture for readers through a story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Small moments writing lays the foundation for strong storytelling and for creating connections with their readers.

We launched our small-moments narrative writing unit by looking at published books so that the children could know that real authors write about small moments, too. We read “Fireflies!” by Julie Brinckloe, a story of a young boy’s small moment of catching fireflies and the mixed emotions he feels as he realizes that they cannot remain in the jar for him to enjoy.

The children agreed that there was something about the way the author wrote about the young boy’s experience that appealed to them, and they tried to put their finger on it:

  • It reminds me about my brother’s firefly toy. -JC
  • It reminded me of my night light when it glows and it blinks. -RP
  • I felt like I was in the book. -PK
  • When I heard those juicy words, I felt like it was really happening. -KB
  • The book makes my heart shine. -EL

The children were amazed that an author could take one small moment and turn it into a relatable experience filled with storytelling, descriptive details, and emotion. We re-read the story, and this time the children were keen to find examples of descriptive words – juicy words as the children know it – that the author used throughout the story. They looked for ways that the author showed the character’s emotion rather than telling it. The children also thought about the structure of the story to determine the beginning, the middle, and the end in order to understand how organization helps to tell the story.

As we continue in this unit, the children will learn to write and publish their own small moment stories from their hearts to share with their audience.

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